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Despite such setbacks, Armstrong was still riding high by the fall of 1996.Then the seventh-ranked cyclist in the world, he signed a lucrative contract with a new team, France's Team Cofidis.

When doctors found tumors on his brain, however, his odds of survival dropped to 50-50, and then to 40 percent.

Soon after, Armstrong chose to focus on cycling, his strongest event as well as his favorite. Armstrong left high school temporarily to do so, but later took private classes and received his high school diploma in 1989. national amateur champion and beat out many professional cyclists to win two major races, the First Union Grand Prix and the Thrift Drug Classic.

The following summer, he qualified for the 1990 junior world team and placed 11th in the World Championship Road Race, with the best time of any American since 1976. In 1991, Armstrong competed in his first Tour Du Pont, a long and difficult 12-stage race, covering 1,085 miles over 11 days.

Fortunately, a subsequent surgery to remove his brain tumors was declared successful, and after more rounds of chemotherapy, Armstrong was declared cancer-free in February 1997.

Throughout his terrifying struggle with the disease, Armstrong continued to maintain that he was going to race competitively again.

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